Monday 11 December 2017

McIlroy has an open mind

Rory relishing St Andrews return

Rory McIlroy returned to St Andrews today, 12 weeks after one of the wildest rides of his golfing life.

The 21-year-old began The Open in July with a major championship record-equalling 63, then was blown away to an 80.

That second round effectively ended his hopes of a first major, but McIlroy came back with 69 and 68 to take third place and has still never had a score in the 70s at the Home of Golf.

In the week that began with his successful Ryder Cup debut, the young Ulsterman resumed the Dunhill Links Championship on one under par and five behind overnight leaders Thomas Bjorn, Martin Laird, Ricardo Gonzalez and Maarten Lafeber.


The celebrity pro-am uses three courses and the nine members of Europe's victorious side in the event -- plus captain Colin Montgomerie -- were all switching from Kingsbarns.

Bjorn, one of Montgomerie's assistants, was at the Old Course yesterday for his 66 and he moved on to Carnoustie hoping his decision not to party too much on Monday would pay further dividends.

"I did the same role with Bernhard Langer (in Detroit in 2004) and so I kind of knew how much it would take out of me," said the Dane.

"I knew straightaway on Monday night that I had to get myself to bed and not stay up until four o'clock.

"I needed to make sure I got two really good nights' sleep and even after 10 days without a golf club in my hand I felt I was hitting it decently. I got myself in the right frame of mind too."

McIlroy, who has his father Gerry as his amateur partner again, played his opening round with Lee Westwood, but today it was Ernie Els.

Westwood linked up with his close friend Darren Clarke and was keeping his fingers crossed that yesterday's further problems with his right calf were not a sign of things to come.

Requiring a top-two finish on Sunday to depose Tiger Woods as world number one, Westwood did not rule out withdrawing from the event despite his opening 70.

But after treatment, his management company said he was all set to tee off again.

"The most important thing is to be right physically for the Masters (next April)," Westwood said. "It's really aching now, like I'm doing too much too soon. Playing two weeks in a row was probably too much in hindsight.

"I don't want to be stupid. I should have stopped after the Open. I didn't rest it when I should have done. It's difficult because I've never been injured before and don't know how careful I've got to be.

"If I keep coming back and it's not right, and all I can do is rehab away from the course, I don't think I'm being fair to myself, to be honest."

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